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Ipex 2006: prepress systems and innovations made a strong showing at Ipex 2006, one of England's largest print trade expositions.

When Ipex 2006 closed for business on April 11, an impressive total of 52,432 people had passed through the doors of the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, UK. With the inclusion of repeat visits this figure exceeded 82,000 over the course of eight days. About 40 percent of visitors were from overseas, with Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia showing strong contingents. From a narrow web label or packaging perspective the main attractions were digitized prepress workflows, CtP flexo platesetters and inkjet technology. The dedicated Flexible Packaging Area was a useful addition, but this was not a show to assess the latest narrow web label presses.

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The few manufacturers present included Drent Goebel, promoting the VSOP (Variable Sleeve Offset Press) with seamless sleeves. It now offers the Model 850 version with a single electronic beam (EB) curing unit. Drent Goebel North America (formerly RDP) will unveil it at an open house in mid June in Montreal. Omet focused on the shaft-less drive and sleeve-based features of the Varyflex multi-substrate press line. Gallus, with partner BHS, focused on the carton printing abilities of the KM 410/510 S series. Barcelona-based Rotatek demonstrated a 20.5" wide Perfect press with four offset units, a flexo varnishing unit, gravure module and UV curing and hot-air drying units. Demonstrations included printing PP film, sheeted labels and small cartons.

The industry-wide acceptance of standards like JDF (Job Description Format) linked with JMF (Job Messaging Format) for moving data between systems from different vendors was a major theme. In the Process Automation and JDF Pavilion, software developers demonstrated the various ways JDF "digital job tickets" are used for exchanging information between different types of JDF-compliant systems and equipment. The nearby "MIS zone" included several leading vendors with JDF-enabled management information systems, including those with label-related modules.

Adobe Systems announced the PDF Print Engine, the first major upgrade to this PostScript-oriented RIP software in nearly a decade. File consistency from desktop to printed output is claimed since specific output-device conversions are now made at the time of output. PDF files will be rendered natively without the need for flattening. Capturing process information from both JDF and PDF files means print jobs will remain device-independent across the workflow. Furthermore, the software will allow late-stage content corrections. The Adobe PDF Print Engine is being offered as a software development kit for OEMs. At least nine prepress system suppliers use Adobe's software in their RIPs.

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Screen included the new PlateRite FX870 digital plate-setter, its first flexo product. Based on thermal laser technology, it images plates up to 34" x 28" at resolutions of 2,400 or 2,540 dpi with screen rulings up to 200 lpi. The platesetter is compatible with Screen's PackStudio SE packaging workflow, based on Artwork Systems' ArtPro software and is integrated with Screen's JDF-compliant Trueflow workflow software. The platesetter has been commercially available since September.

Screen also introduced the continuous feed Truepress Jet520 inkjet printer with Epson's piezo print heads. It runs in simplex or duplex mode at up to 209 feet/minute on a 20" web width. Initially it is aimed at the direct mailer market, but other applications may follow.

Ipex showed several advances in drop-on-demand inkjet technology, especially for hybrid applications working with other processes. Agfa Graphics showed a revamped multi-product Dotrix Modular with a maximum 25" web width. One or more print engines, based on stitchable Toshiba grayscale print heads, make up a servo-driven line. The show version ran with an inline flexo unit, web cleaner, corona treater, UV unit, and water-cooled chill drums to print unsupported PE film using Agfa's Agorix UV-curable inks.

Xaar's booth featured its grayscale print heads, including the OmniDot 760 GS8 adopted for the digital web press from imaging Technology international. The DWP prints full color, high-quality images on labelstocks or film with on-the-fly image changes. The machine offers optional UV curing, IR or hot-air drying.

Under its new Flint Group banner, Jetrion introduced the 3025 SA, described as the first stand-alone narrow web rewinder with an integrated UV ink jet module. BCL Bar Code Label in Hungary is the first European customer. The 3025 SA uses stitchable Spectra 2.4" print heads and includes a lamp head from Honle UV America. The rewinder from Grafisk Maskinfabrik in Denmark offers optional slitting, die cutting and inspection facilities. Mark Andy will manufacture the rewinder for the North American market. This September, Labelexpo visitors will see Jetrion's first grayscale enabled module, the 4040, for printing full-color labels and speciality packaging. It is also the first production model to be built at Jetrion's new headquarters in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Domino Printing Science showed a prototype of full-color UV-curable technology for integration into existing presses. It is based on Domino's second-generation K-Series variable data printers, led by the K200 which prints spot colors and CMYK. It was shown with the Editor GT, which can control up to eight K200s or 16 K100 print heads.

Printing Technology Services showed the JetFlex offering both CMYK and variable data inkjet printing using UV inks, backed by the VeriFlex print verification system. Fully-stitched 8" wide images, or two across for an 18" wide web, are offered with adjustable print resolution. It can be integrated into web presses, sheet-fed presses and finishing systems.

The JDF-enabled theme dominated the front-end world, as typified by Artwork Solutions' latest PDF-enabled Odystar for packaging. It also offers PA:CT, a version of the industry standard Certified PDF technology from its subsidiary Enfocus Software for the packaging world. Incorporated in the ArtPro and Nexus workflow systems, it offers a new approach to pre-press data access and trace-ability over all operations, including for customers.

Agfa Graphics featured ApogeeX 3.0 workflow management software, which allows integration with non-Agfa workflows. JDF and JMF standards determine the processing of jobs and provide cost analysis progress reports. The company demonstrated modules of ApogeeX production software, Delano project management and SherpaProof proofing software for outputting various types of soft or hard-copy proofs.

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Esko introduced Scope 3 for packaging workflows which is compatible with JDF and PDF files, with links to many MIS systems. Also featured was DeskPack, a dedicated label design and production tool for use with Adobe Illustrator CS and PhotoShop CS applications. Esko also showed the Cyrel Digital Imager Spark 2120, launched at the last Labelexpo. Aimed at smaller narrow web label converters and trade houses, the unit digitally images plates up to 533mm x 508mm (21" x 20") in around 16 minutes. It handles screen rulings up to 200 lpi with halftone imaging from 1 to 99 percent and uses the Adobe-certified PostScript 3 FlexRip 2120.

Kodak introduced the Thermoflex Mid Hybrid platesetter (plates up to 40" x 47") with HyperFlex resolution enhancement software. It was operated with the Prinergy Powerpack scalable workflow management system and Kodak's Approval NX digital color imaging system. The midsized model augments the Thermoflex Narrow Hybrid (30" x 30") introduced late last year and further confirms Kodak's commitment to CtP for flexo. By imaging either offset, flexo or letterpress plates, both of these CtP platesetters are said to offer users a chance to get the most from their investment.

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Digital color press manufacturers now highlight the multi-product capabilities of their respective systems. Hewlett Packard showed the established rollfed ws-4050, running with an Omega Digicon HS label converting line--including the Sabre eXtreme laser diecutter--from AB Graphic International. HP has appointed Beijing Founder Electronics to distribute Indigo digital presses and consumables within China. The companies will also undertake a joint R & D program for digital front-end End systems. It will include JDF-PDF workflow technology for integrating with other output devices and involving the installed base of HP Indigo users.

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Punch Graphix introduced Version 1.60 of the X-800 digital front-end for Xeikon color printers. A new Metadata tool allows last-minute copy or image changes without the need to re-RIP and repeats of the workflow cycle. The upgraded front-end also generates fixed or variable bar codes.

AB Graphic International introduced the entry-level Ti150 Label Converter for integrating RFID and EAS tags into rolls of pre-printed and diecut labels in a single pass. It was shown with the Omega SR410 label inspection rewinder with die cutting. The Omega SR features electronic web guidance with ultrasonic sensor suitable for opaque and clear substrates. A control panel with integrated functions permits easy operation and job setup. ABG also displayed an Omega converting line with diecutter and a Vectra STR, servo-driven turret rewinder. Elsewhere, Advanced Vision Technology demonstrated its PrintVision/Helios 100 percent web inspection system mounted on an Omega SR 300 slitter/rewinder.

GEW (EC) introduced the e-System mini electronic UV curing lamp for label presses up to 10" wide. The single-phase, energy-saving 3.6kW power supply is described as ultra-compact, lightweight and stackable. The lamp also boasts a new, patented reflector. Other e-System models include the VCP for web presses up to 19" wide and the new eCP lamp head for mid web presses. The lamp heads are based around GEW's e-Brick electronic power supply.
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Publication:Label & Narrow Web
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 1, 2006
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